doctors instrument

Loss of airway and respiratory failure cases are some of the most devastating medical malpractice cases we handle. Respiratory failure is often followed by respiratory arrest, and then cardiac arrest (cardiopulmonary arrest), creating a “crash” or “code” situation. The longer a patient goes without sufficient blood flow and oxygen to major organs, the worse the outcome, in most cases. Many patients who experience cardiopulmonary arrest end up with some type of brain injury, which can result in memory problems and other long-term issues. Sadly, some patients who suffer cardiopulmonary arrest are not able to recover, and they suffer an untimely death.

Below is a list of common airway cases:

  • Failure to promptly treat difficulty breathing, impending respiratory failure, respiratory failure, and respiratory arrest
  • Problems with the breathing tube (endotracheal (ET) tube)
  • Delayed intubation (delayed placement of a needed ET tube) / failure to timely intubate when a patient needs help breathing
    • A patient may need an ET tube to prevent respiratory failure (because the patient is experiencing difficulty breathing and impending respiratory failure).
    • A patient may need an ET tube placed because she at risk of losing her airway. For example, sometimes after neck surgery (especially after cervical spine surgery), a patient may develop internal bleeding in her neck called a hematoma. If this area of blood pooling internally gets big enough, it can push on the upper airway (and nerves and blood vessels), resulting in airway loss.
  • Problems with a trach tube
  • Loss of breathing tube (loss of ET tube or trach tube)
  • Premature removal of ET tube

Airway issues we see at hospitals usually involve a patient who is exhibiting signs of difficulty breathing, and the healthcare team fails to give the patient the help he needs. Sometimes this help comes in the form of giving the patient a breathing tube (intubation) and placing the patient on a machine (ventilator) to help the patient breathe or to do all the breathing for the patient. In addition, the cause of the condition that is making it difficult to breathe needs to be fixed. This can mean giving the patient medication and treatment to help get rid of fluid in his lungs, giving the patient medications to treat an infection before the infection causes major lung problems, or giving the patient asthma medications, which may include bronchodilators and steroids. A patient may need to be intubated and placed on a ventilator while the patient’s underlying conditions are being treated so that respiratory failure does not occur.

The key is recognizing impending respiratory failure and giving the patient any and all necessary treatments so that actual respiratory failure (and cardiopulmonary arrest) can be prevented. Many times, what we see in the records is that the medical team recognizes breathing problems when the patient is starting to rapidly fail. By the time the healthcare team pages the appropriate doctors to intubate the patient, the patient has crashed and gone into cardiopulmonary arrest. Sometimes, the team has difficulty intubating the patient, and the patient is then without a sufficient airway for a very long time, suffering severe oxygen deprivation (hypoxia / anoxia).

When a patient is deprived of oxygen for too long, she typically suffer conditions called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), anoxic brain injury, hypoxic brain injury, hypoxic / metabolic encephalopathy, and / or anoxic encephalopathy. These are the terms we see in the medical records after a patient has suffered prolonged oxygen deprivation, and these terms are often used interchangeably. Encephalopathy means brain disease, damage or malfunction, and anoxia means total or near-total deprivation of oxygen. Ischemia means reduced or lack of blood flow, and hypoxia / anoxia cause ischemia. Being in cardiac arrest also causes ischemia. Metabolic encephalopathy can occur from non-hypoxic / anoxic conditions, but it is also often used after a patient experiences hypoxia to describe the brain injury that occurs from the cascade of events (acidosis, etc.) that follows hypoxia / anoxia.


These are just a few of the many types of medical malpractice cases that the medical malpractice attorneys at Grewal Law handle. Medial errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer, and the Grewal Law attorneys are passionate about holding hospitals, medical centers, clinics, and pharmacies – as well as their healthcare workers – responsible for negligent actions that cause harm to patients. Our attorneys are licensed in Michigan, Florida and Arizona, and when it comes to Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) cases (suing military hospitals, VA hospitals, federally qualified clinics), we handle cases worldwide.

Grewal Law has built a strong record of success in personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma and personal injury lawsuits. The firm’s attorneys have obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for their clients. The firm’s medical malpractice team includes 2 medical doctors (one of whom is a doctor and a lawyer), several attorneys with decades of medical malpractice experience, a nurse, a respiratory therapist, a paramedic and a pharmacist.

If you believe that you or a family member was a victim of medical negligence, please contact our team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers. Grewal Law’s medical malpractice attorneys and medical staff are available to speak with you 24/7. When Grewal Law represents you, there is never a fee unless we recover money for your case.

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